What does Pride mean to you? It’s a question that holds more weight this season for Charlotte’s LGBTQIA+ community. In part because of the return to in-person celebrations cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Also for the first time, we’re not looking at a Charlotte Pride weekend, but an entire season. Events were originally planned from August until November, but on Aug. 23, Charlotte Pride announced it’s postponing certain events and celebrations due to low vaccination rates and heightened test-positivity rates of COVID-19 and the Delta variant.
More importantly, though, Pride is special this year because of the recent expansion of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
On Aug. 9, Charlotte City Council voted unanimously to amend Charlotte ordinances to include familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, pregnancy and natural hairstyle as classes protected against discrimination.
The vote was the city’s third go at a new NDO, and the second to be approved by council. The one approved by council in 2016 was infamously canceled out by the passage of HB2 in the state legislature shortly thereafter. The new updates go into effect on Oct. 1 — right as Pride Season gets ready to kick off — with the same protections applying to employment starting Jan. 1, 2022.
It was a big and long-awaited win, so we asked leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as our readers, to weigh in on what this year’s Pride means to them.
President, LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County
East Charlotte; He/Him
What Pride means to him: Pride is a celebration of inclusion — an opportunity for the forgotten and the marginalized to be together. It builds community and visibility. It dispels the fear of the other and creates safer, more resilient neighborhoods, workplaces and cities. It’s a time for joy, in spite of our challenges and in recognition of our successes.
How the NDO passing makes this Pride special: After the still-healing scars of HB2 and the legislative assault from many Republicans on trans kids, a unanimous, bipartisan vote affirmed the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Charlotte. This Pride is a moment to celebrate the hard-won progress and highlight the journey still to go for so many.
What he’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: Charlotte is such a growing city, and there are countless connections I’ve made over Zoom or Discord. I’m hopeful that a safe, in-person celebration can deepen those friendships, and I’m looking forward to a parade that celebrates the diversity, acceptance and resilience of the LGBTQIA+ community.
NoDa Company Store
Uptown Charlotte; He/Him
What Pride means to him: Showing how broad and diverse the LGBTQ community is and giving space for everyone to express themself.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: I think it not only provides the protections needed, but is an open expression by the city to those here and those watching us that we are an open and inclusive place.
What he’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: The parade!
President of Log Cabin Republicans of North Carolina; Vice chair of The Plus Collective – Charlotte Mecklenburg’s LGBTQ+ Fund
What Pride means to him: This is an interesting question because it has changed depending on my age. As a young man in my late teens and early 20s struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, the Pride season was a way for me to see my identity normalized and celebrated. My focus was on the parades and the parties. As an adult in my 30s, Pride season is instead an opportunity to connect with organizations and community members providing support to our community. Now, it is less about fun, but is instead about how I can give back to the community that has given so much to me.
As it relates to how Pride impacts the community, I see that it focuses on acceptance and normalization. It’s a recognition that LGBTQ+ people run the gamut in identity, politics, religion, and race or ethnicity. Showing the wide array of who is a part of our community breaks down stereotypes and judgment.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: As an active member of both the Charlotte and statewide Republican Party, this Pride season is especially special because it was Charlotte Republican Councilman Tariq Bokhari who first introduced a draft nondiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ+ people in housing, employment and public accommodations. He came to me and a few other Young Republicans back in February with a mission: use our conservative principles to draft an ordinance ensuring these much needed protections. We spent multiple months talking with stakeholders and receiving feedback from local and state conservative leaders. We then released our proposal in June.
Though the eventual nondiscrimination ordinance passed by council wasn’t our specific draft, there are clearly influences from our proposal. And having a unanimous council made up of both Republicans and Democrats pass these protections shows me that I can celebrate not only Pride as an LGBTQ+ person, but that I can celebrate Pride as a proud gay conservative.
What he’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: I think the Pride Pop-Up programming is what I am looking forward to. As a member of The Plus Collective, I am excited about reintroducing the organization to the Charlotte community. This year, the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund rebranded to The Plus Collective, and it is important to let people know about our continued mission in providing grants to LGBTQ+ and allied nonprofits in the Charlotte area.
Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Club
South Charlotte; He/Him
What Pride means to him: Pride means having a family no matter what is going on with my actual family. I feel that Pride gives everyone else in the community a sense of belonging and a sense of family.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: It makes this Pride season feel like there is so much more weight behind the festivities. It feels like there is a small glimmer of hope for those that are discriminated against.
What he’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: Marching in the parade with the Royals. My family. Showing those that are questioning who they are that LGBTQIA+ looks different to everyone. Showing them that it’s OK to be who you are, no matter how many people have told you that you’re wrong.
One Voice Chorus
South Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: To me, it’s seeing the sheer number of people uplifting and validating each other. It’s indescribable to see the younger kids showing up in ways that were absolutely impossible for me to do in my youth.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: It feels like such a vindication! This community has achieved something monumental and we should relish it all the more this year. It’s the end of a hard-fought, hard-won battle and we get to explode our joy all over each other. We’re here, we’re queer and we’ve got the protections that we deserve!
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: Seeing how many more businesses/groups/churches/politicians are comfortable and pleased to take part in our celebration than in years past.
One Voice Chorus
East Charlotte; He/Him
What Pride means to him: Pride means having a relationship to a larger community (both local and abroad) and supporting that relationship in every way possible. This is our time to show up and show out for that community so we can bond together.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: Just like with the passage of gay marriage, this Pride is a special time to celebrate. We have a long overdue victory. It is also a time to thank those that fought for those protections.
What he’s looking forward to about this year’s celebrations: As with many activities, virtual just doesn’t build community. I am excited to be back together again so we can feel the energy that exists in a celebration like this.
Coffee & Pan Dulce Show
South Charlotte, He/Him
What Pride means to him: It means we can move closer to an America where we treat all of our neighbors like neighbors & love thy neighbor!
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: Long overdue for a city that wants our professional & corporate world to view Charlotte as a serious modern major international city to live, work, & play — instead of just a big Southern city run by Barney Fife.
What he’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: Pride parade.
Charlotte Pride festival and programs volunteer; GLSEN national student council member; TOY speaker’s bureau; Carolina Raptor Center
West Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: Pride is a feeling of safety and belonging. It is a mutual understanding of how we are all connected. There is strength in community. We are all individuals brought together by a shared identity or passion. Pride has always felt like a space where I can feel seen and celebrated as myself in my entirety.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: It’s a start and I hope the community does not let go of this momentum.
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: As someone working behind the scenes, I am so excited for people to see what we have been working on. Especially for the Job Fair and Community Conference in November. I am also very excited for people to see all the fun activities we have planned for the Pop-Up Pride festival this year.
Charlotte Black Pride
East Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: Coming from a marginalized community, Pride in many ways is an opportunity to be seen, heard and celebrated.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: It is bittersweet. Bitter that we are still debating and struggling to obtain equal rights, transparency and accountability in 2021. But, it also makes this Pride season sweet to finally overcome the stigma of HB2 and to be moving in the right direction with the passing of Charlotte’s NDO.
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: The sense of community.
What Pride means to him: Pride means unity. For years, it’s that one time a year, you know that everyone comes together to stand together in love and support. Pride makes a huge impact on the community, oftentimes these moments are the only time you see your friends and it’s often the perfect opportunity to ask your friends and family to join you. My mother attended Pride with me about two years ago in a “Free Mom Hug” t-shirt, which ultimately had a huge impact on the community as I grew up receiving hugs. Many do not.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: It’s one of those “that is amazing” moments, but it’s only baby steps in the much bigger picture in the fight for equality and worth celebrating during this Pride season.
What he’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: After last year’s cancelation, I’m most looking forward to the city of Charlotte showing love and including a group that’s often overlooked some much needed love & support. I don’t think I’ll have my mother with me this year and that would have been the thing I looked forward to most!
Executive director, Transcend Charlotte
Outside city limits; They/Them
What Pride means to them: Pride began as a civil rights and social justice revolution. As much as Pride is a celebration of our communities and our progress, to me, Pride is still very much a civil rights movement. I’m grateful for those who continue to fight for equality.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: Charlotte’s recent NDO expansion is certainly progress that we are celebrating! It’s important to remember though that, while an important milestone, this achievement is not the end of our journey.
What they’re looking forward to about in-person celebrations: Celebrating the sacred identities of our LGBTQ+ siblings. We need each other, Pride is about people and I’m so thrilled to celebrate each other in person this year!
Case manager, Transcend Charlotte
East Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: Pride is recognition to me. Sometimes I wish there was a sign queer folx could wear that only other queer folx could see that said, “Hey, we’re family.” It can sometimes feel like I’m a lone rainbow person in a sea of cis/het people. Pride includes allies of course, but only at Pride (and Scorpios) can I be surrounded by family. It’s the one time a year I’m assumed queer. And it’s a free feeling I can’t quite describe. To be authentically seen, it’s everything for me.
For the community, I feel it’s the same. We get to come together and show our identities and how powerful we are even outside of them. We are queer and successful business people. We are queer and great parents, etc. That recognition by the rest of the world is freeing. That recognition of each other is comforting in a world where it isn’t always even safe to walk into a certain place.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: Transcend’s Executive Director Bethany Corrigan worked their ass off for that ordinance to pass. From speaking to council members to speaking at the rally to encouraging others to speak up. It’s special because, again, recognition. The discrimination that made this ordinance a necessity is being recognized. It exists. The voices that have been saying it exists for years were recognized. Not just at Pride but the voices echoed throughout the city, all the way up to the mayor’s office. And that’s with some folx still being stealth. This Pride is going to be the celebration of that recognition. The community is powerful and our voices are important. What are we going to do next?
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: If I’m being honest, making friends. After a year of quarantining and talking to no end on those …*special meet up apps*… without the actual meeting part, I think I’m most excited to organically form a real friendship (sans the awkward “Hey” with a hand-wave emoji). I’m also excited to see all of Charlotte Pride’s unique first-time events come together, like the pop-up prides!
Rev. Debra J. Hopkins
There’s Still Hope Charlotte
East Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: Pride for me is about inclusion and celebrating diversity, difference and ultimately who we are. Pride is about living our lives with dignity, integrity, joy, courage, and in community with others without fear of being judged for who we are. The impact can be an exciting and liberating celebration for so many who want nothing more than to be belonging, accepted, love, respect and community.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: Well, my answer is really simple; for at least, in the nine cities here in N.C. that have voted in favor of the ordinance, it gives those within the LGBTQIA community a sense of security, peace of mind and a freedom from the behaviors like discrimination and hate inflicted upon many within our communities for too many years — in particular towards Persons of Color. The nondiscrimination ordinance offers the kind of protection under the law for those in our community to be fairly treated as equals regardless of who they love or how an individual identifies. The ordinance provides the kind of assurance many so desperately deserves. It allows for the opportunity to feel safer according to the law.
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: Oh wow, yessss — “opportunities.” Opportunities for community and connection — telling stories about our history as an LGBTQ community so that we can celebrate our past and plan for a better future. Pride allows us to come together to celebrate our wins, our culture and each other, all of which has enormous potential to build community and connection.
Creator of Solidarity & Co.
East Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: Pride means to embrace your sexuality, celebrate the freedom to explore and love who you want, regardless of gender norms or societal expectations. I believe this impacts the community by encouraging liberation and increasing representation for future generations.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: I feel relieved to know that I will be celebrating Pride in a city that has taken a stand against discrimination. There is more work to do for the community to feel secure and fully embraced, but Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance is certainly a stride in the right direction.
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: It’s the drag shows and creativity for me! I am excited to see the drag queens’ performances and the overall creativity that is rampant within our community.
West Charlotte; She/Her
What Pride means to her: It’s great we have a good turnout from community.
How the NDO passing makes this year’s Charlotte Pride special: Makes one feel accepted. Finally.
What she’s looking forward to about in-person celebrations: People watching and booths.